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Friday, July 26, 2013

Movie Penguin Monday: Friday Edition: #21. Sharknado

Remember when the impossible-sounding existence of something called Snakes on a Plane was announced and the world was abuzz with excitement? Remember how leading up to its opening weekend, you could hardly sleep because the anticipation of watching Samuel L Jackson yell obscenities at snakes for two hours had given you a ten-foot-tall nerd-boner? And remember how you and your friends went to the drive-in to see Snakes on a Plane and it was, in actuality, fairly disappointing? Well, history has a tendency to repeat itself, and it did so recently with the premiere of  Sharknado on the SyFy Network. Replace “various species of snakes” with “various species of sharks”, “plane” with “tornado,” and “Pulp Fiction’s Samuel L Jackson” with “Beverly Hills 90210’s Ian Ziering” and you’ve basically (not really) got Sharknado

I don’t’ know if you spend a lot of time on the internet, but it has been lousy with Sharknado talk lately, especially on Twitter, the #1 spot for weirdos and the snark elite to spout their thoughts on, reviews of and jokes about all matter of pop culture. Here’s what the denizens of Twitter have been saying about Sharknado

@jefforange89 Oh my god, guys. #Sharknado is the best movie I’ve ever seen. 

@SarahPilato #Sharknado holding our hearts. 

@agoldberg85 Rewatching #Sharknado it's just as awesome the second time around! 

@379_Deanne You are the bomb diggity in #sharknado, @IanZiering! 

@ChuckNorris8 Now that I've seen #SharkNado I can easily say that #SnakesOnAPlane is definitely better

I guess it depends on what your definition of "better" is.  

I don’t remember where I was or what I was doing the first time I became aware of the impending Sharknado (It may have been on one of the many 90210-related message boards I frequent), but I do remember the first in-depth analysis I heard, and that was on my third-favorite bad movie podcast, How Did This Get Made?, which posted an emergency episode to deal with the Sharknado issue in a timely fashion (unlike, say, this review). It goes without saying, but listening to Paul Scheer and his co-hosts goof on the movie is the best thing about Sharknado. This movie is bad, ladies and gentleman, but not unlike Snakes on a Plane, not bad in the right way.
What does Sharknado get right? Well, Sharknado justifies its existence in two pretty glorious scenes, both of which pop up in the movie’s third act. The first scene involves Ziering’s son and Nova, the spunky bartender who hates sharks for reasons that are beyond ridiculous, but totally justified considering, in a helicopter, throwing bombs into the titular weather condition. A passing shark chomps down on one of the helicopter’s skids, so Nova whips out her hunting knife and goes to town stabbing it in the face. But—uh-oh!—these two are in the middle of a tornado full of sharks in a helicopter, so, of course, Nova falls out DIRECTLY INTO THE MOUTH OF A PASSING GREAT WHITE! Did you get that? Nova is SWALLOWED WHOLE BY A FLYING SHARK!!! That. Is. Awesome. 

The other scene finds our hero, Fin, played charmingly by Ian Ziering, running toward his ex-wife (Tara Reid, awful per usual, but not distractingly so) and his daughter, warning them to look out for falling sharks, when the biggest CGI shark in CGI shark history tumbles from the clouds and SWALLOWS HIM WHOLE!!! To be a little more clear, Fin, who is brandishing an active chainsaw at the time, JUMPS INTO THE SHARK’S OPEN MOUTH AS IT FALLS FROM THE FRIGGING SKY!!! Reid and her daughter stare sullenly at the dead shark, its guts filled with Steve Sanders meat, crying and blubbering and whatnot, when suddenly, from inside the mighty beast, come the sounds of a whirring, rusty chainsaw. Ian Ziering CUTS HIMSELF OUT OF A GREAT WHITE SHARK FROM THE INSIDE! Oh, then he DRAGS NOVA’S BODY OUT OF THE SAME SHARK!!! WTF?!?!? 

I know what you’re thinking right now. You’re thinking, “I gotta see this movie!” You don’t. You’ve got to see these scenes, but you do not have to watch Sharknado in its entirety. That would be a waste of the precious little time you have on this planet. To squander your hours on something as abysmal as Sharknado is to spit in the face of God. “This is how I choose to spend my time. Not helping the less fortunate or giving my time and effort to make things better in this country and the world. I spent it watching dumb movies about shark tornados starring Tara Reid, America’s premiere acting raccoon.”
There are essentially two reasons why Sharknado is bad. First is the editing. Second is the CGI.

Sharknado is so poorly edited, there is absolutely no way to tell what’s going on at any particular time in any specific scene. The weather goes from vaguely stormy to sunny and pleasant to slightly overcast to apocalyptically windy in the span of a single scene. These badly patch worked scenes showcase a weather phenomenon far more disturbing than a tornado of sharks. Take for instance the “exciting” bus rescue scene, in which Fin repels from an overpass to save a school bus full of teenagers and their teacher/bus driver. Atop the overpass, the weather seems kind of nice: a little overcast, but the sun is just peeking through; no rain; and commuters are driving by without a care in the world. Below, however, the bus is stranded in a stormy no-mans-land of flash floods and homicidal sharks. Dumb. The only redeeming thing about the scene is when the teacher—who I think we were supposed to get a real kick out of?—is crushed by a letter from the world-famous Hollywood sign. 

Maybe it’s because I watched Sharknado two days after I saw Man of Steel, but, dammit, is this CGI awful. I mean, it’s just the worst. And I realize this is a SyFy movie and bad effects are part of the “charm,” but, c’mon! A lot of the effects don’t make any sense. Like, how are Fin and his friends driving on roads that are flooded with enough water to allow scores upon scores of sharks to swim through the streets of Los Angeles without a care in the world? And it’s not just the sharks that look bad. Every explosions, every tornado, every single thing looks like garbage. The best looking sharks appear in the stock footage inserted willy-nilly. The CGI ones look like lumpy, gray worms. It’d be infuriating if it actually mattered, which it doesn’t.

The plot of Sharknado is pretty straightforward: Sharks of all kinds are hanging out together because of global warming (?); a bunch of them launch a seemingly planned attack on the Santa Monica Pier one afternoon, killing dozens and destroying Fin’s bar (The shark attack scene contains what could almost be considered a third justification of Sharknado’s existence--a runaway Ferris wheel--but nothing crazy enough happens. I like the idea of an errant Ferris wheel rolling down the street, crushing pedestrians and knocking over buildings, but the Sharknado team doesn’t take it far enough.); three tornados pop up, lifting the gang of sharks into the air for a sweet ride over Los Angeles; Fin, Nova, an Australian dude who is likable but is literally given nothing to do, Fin’s ex-wife and Fin’s kids single-handedly save the day by hatching a plan to toss homemade bombs into the tornados, because that’s a thing that works. There’s the movie. John Heard is in there too, as a drunk who is killed by a shark while trying to save a dog. 

Sharknado is bad, but not bad enough to be good. And I’m pretty sure adding booze and a room full of friends wouldn’t help. The actors are all fine, in fact, it’s refreshing how fully they commit to the stupid script and to what I assume were several days spent running around in front of green screens reacting to invisible sharks. The editing is what ultimately sinks Sharknado (I can look beyond the bad CGI, after all, I’m a huge fan of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV show.), making it nearly impossible to watch. Sorry, internet. You were wrong about this one.

1 comment:

Natalie Spencer said...

Bahahaha.... I laughed so hard at this review. It's my most favorite one yet.

Also, is Fin named Fin because of all of the shark fins in the movie? Couldn't they have picked a better name?